Somewhere near Fiji
November 15 (?), 1913

Dear Eddie,

I'm conscious I haven't written to you for a long time: --- though, indeed, my last letter was posted only a short time ago. When it, or when this, will get to you, God knows. About Christmas, I suppose, though it seems incredible. My reason tells me that you'll be slurring through London mud in a taxi, with a heavy drizzle falling, and a chilly dampness in the air, and the theatres glaring in the Strand, and crowds of white faces. But I can't help thinking of you trotting through crisp snow to a country church, holly-decorated, with little robins picking crumbs all around, and the church-bells playing our brother Tennyson's In Memoriam brightly through the clear air. It may not be: it never has been: --- that picture-postcard Christmas. But I shall think of you so.

You think of me, in a loin-cloth, brown and wild in the fair chocolate arms of a Tahitian beauty, reclining beneath a breadfruit tree, on white sand, with the breakers roaring against the reefs a mile out, and strange brilliant fish darting through the pellucid hyaline of the sun-saturated sea.

Oh, Eddie, it's all true about the South Seas! I get a little tired of it at moments, because I am just too old for Romance. But there it is: there it wonderfully is: heaven on earth, the ideal life, little work, dancing and singing and eating, naked people of incredible loveliness, perfect manners, and immense kindliness, a divine tropic climate, and intoxicating beauty of scenery.

I came aboard and left Samoa two days ago. Before that I had been wandering with an "interpreter" --- entirely genial and quite incapable of English --- through Samoan villages. The last few days I stopped in one, where a big marriage-feast was going on. I lived in a Samoan house (the coolest in the world) with a man and his wife, nine children, ranging from a proud beauty of 18 to a round object of 1 year, a dog, a cat, a proud hysterical hen, and a gaudy scarlet and green parrot, who roved the roof and beams with a wicked eye; choosing a place whence to ---, twice a day, with humorous precision, on my hat and clothes.

The Samoan girls have extraordinarily beautiful bodies, and walk like goddesses. They're a lovely brown colour, without any black Melanesian admixture; their necks and shoulders would be the wild envy of any European beauty; and in carriage and face they remind me continually and vividly of my incomparable heartless and ever-loved X. Fancy moving among a tribe of X's! Can't you imagine how shattered and fragmentary a heart I'm bearing away to Fiji and Tahiti? And, oh dear! I'm afraid they'll be just as bad.

And Eddie, it's all True about, for instance, Cocoanuts. You tramp through a strange vast dripping tropical forest for hours, listening to weird liquid hootings from birds and demons in the branches above. Then you feel thirsty, so you send your boy up a great perpendicular palm. He runs up with utter ease and grace, cuts off a couple of vast nuts and comes down and makes holes in them. And they are chock-full of the best drink in the world.

Romance! Romance! I walked 15 miles through mud and up and down mountains, and swam three rivers, to get this boat. But if ever you miss me, suddenly, one day, from lecture-room B. in King's, or from the Moulin d'Or at lunch, you'll know that I've got sick for the full moon on these little thatched roofs, and the palms against the morning, and the Samoan boys and girls diving thirty feet into a green sea or a deep mountain pool under a waterfall --- and that I've gone back.

Romance? That's half my time. The rest is Life --- Life, Eddie, is what you get in the bars of the hotels in 'Frisco, or Honolulu, or Suva, or Apia, and in the smoking-rooms in these steamers. It is incredibly like a Kipling story, and all the people are very self-consciously Kiplingesque. Yesterday, for instance, I sat in the Chief Engineer's cabin, with the first officer and a successful beach-comber lawyer from the white-man's town in Samoa, drinking Australian champagne from breakfast to lunch. "To-day I am not well." The beach-comber matriculated at Wadham, and was sent down. Also, he rode with the Pytchley, quotes you Virgil, and discusses the ins and outs of the Peninsular campaign. And his repertoire of smut is enormous. Mere Kipling, you see, but one gets some good stories. Verses, of a school-boy kind, too... Sehr primitiv. The whole thing makes a funny world.

I may pick up some mail, and hear from you, when I get to New Zealand. I'm afraid your post as my honorary literary agent, or grass-executor, is something of a sinecure. I can't write on the trail.

There's one thing I wanted to consult you about, and I can't remember if I mentioned it. I want some club to take an occasional stranger into, for a drink, and to read the papers in, and, sometimes, to have a quiet meal in. Where do you think I should go? ... I want somewhere I needn't always be spick and span in, and somewhere I don't have to pay a vast sum.

There's nothing else in the way of my European existence, I think. That part of it which is left, out here, reads Ben Jonson. Kindly turn up his "New Inn" (which is sheer Meredith) and read Lovel's Song in Act IV. The second verse will dispel the impression of the first, that it is by Robert Browning. The whole thing is pure beauty.

No more. My love to everyone, from Jackson down to --- if you've made her acquaintance yet --- Helena Darwin Cornford. And to such as Wilfred (Gibson) and Denis (Browne) and yourself and a few more poor, pale-skinned stay-at-homes, a double measure. I have a growing vision of next summer term spent between King's and Raymond Buildings: a lovely vision. May it be.

Manina! Tofa!

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